Access Archives: The Newsletter of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Volume 10, Summer 2011

Access Archives, Summer 2011

Photo of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, taken by Archivist Jerry Elllis enroute to assess records in Potter County

Photo of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, taken by Archivist Jerry Elllis
enroute to assess records in Potter County.

A Message from State Archivist David Haury

State Archivist, David Haury
State Archivist, David Haury


On June 14 the State Archives opened the records of Governor Edward G. Rendell to the public. The arrangement and description of roughly three hundred cubic feet of records are nearing completion, and series descriptions are online. Mary Soderberg, Governor Rendell’s Budget Secretary, is finishing a legal review process which will close between two and three percent of the materials for ten years based primarily on various confidentiality concerns such as attorney-client privilege. Otherwise the records are open and available. This experience stands in stark contrast with that of the archives with previous governors.

The archives staff played no role in selecting the records deposited in the archives by Governors Ridge and Schweiker, who both chose to close all of their records to the public for twenty years. After a request from the State Archives, in August of this year Governor Ridge and Schweiker opened many of their records to the public early.  Application to access information in their records which remain closed must be made to their representatives. The archives worked more directly with Governor Casey to arrange for the transfer his records, but roughly one third of the records were closed for twenty years. Governor Thornburgh chose to split his materials between the University of Pittsburgh and the State Archives. In contrast with these earlier governors, Governor Rendell’s staff worked with the archives to create records retention and disposition schedules several years ago, and the schedules designating which records were archival were observed in determining the disposition of his records.

Fortunately, the tradition that the records of Pennsylvania’s governors are deposited in the State Archives is quite well established despite the fact that Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states which does not require this to happen. A governor could destroy all of their records or donate them to another institution. This situation to some degree along with the natural turnover after elections every four or eight years prevents the archives from maintaining an ongoing and consistent relationship with the various offices within the governor’s office. So the process of educating individuals regarding the documentation of their work which should be archival is ongoing and never completed.


Numerous other factors prevent the archives from receiving everything we would like to have from each governor.  It isn’t surprising that officials rightly worry that candor would be stifled without a certain amount of confidentiality, and they aren’t going to maintain a second set of files minus the annotations for the archives.  No doubt many more candid documents are simply destroyed.  Just as is the case with state agency records, the archives faces difficult issues with accepting and preserving electronic records from the governor’s office, and the portion of records which are electronic will only increase with each new administration. The transfer of the Rendell records overall went quite smoothly while still providing a learning experience, and the archives will follow up on various opportunities for improvement as the cycle begins anew.

A selected list of Governor Rendell's papers transferred to the Archives appears in this issue under "Recent Acquisitions."

Who Do You Think You Are?

Congratualtions to Archivist Aaron McWilliams and his wife Maureen who recently welcomed a new addition to the family, Hadley Elizabeth, McWilliams. Pictured is a scene from Aaron's suprise baby shower in the newly renovated search room.
Congratualtions to Archivist Aaron McWilliams and his wife Maureen who recently welcomed a new addition to the family, Hadley Elizabeth, McWilliams. Pictured is a scene from Aaron's suprise baby shower in the newly renovated search room.

Aired on March 25th, 2011, Episode 6, Season 2, of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? featured the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Renowned acting legend Steve Bucsemi visited the Archives with crew in tow January 12 - 14. Reference archivist Aaron McWilliams expertly assisted Mr. Bucsemi in uncovering puzzle pieces pertaining to his relative Ralph Mongomery. Below is a series of questions asked of Mr. McWilliams regarding the experience.

- How did the producers get in touch with you/the State Archives?
The show called us just after Thanksgiving. They wanted the Archives to search the Northumberland County tax records for Ralph Montgomery. After [reference Archivist] Jonathan [Stayer] performed the initial search, I became the primary contact, performing additional searches of the Northumberland County tax record and Civil War records.

- What was their initial reasoning and how did they think to come to the PA State Archives?
It was about the second week of December when they called about filming at the Archives. They had decided to focus on Ralph Montgomery and were looking for possible locations. Since we held the original Northumberland County tax assessment records and a microfilm copy of the newspaper with his suicide note - two important pieces in the storyline – the Archives was a logical place to film. I believe the producers [initially] visited December 16, 2010.

- What kind of background information did they provide?
They did not provide any information on the celebrity. We only received information on Ralph Montgomery. I learned the name of the celebrity in the first week of January after signing the release forms.

- How long did you spend researching for the program?
About 5 – 7 hours over a two week period.

- What resources did you utilize at the Archives?
I used the Northumberland County Tax Assessment Records (#47.155), Civil War Muster Rolls and Related Records, 1861-1866 (#19.11), and Manuscript Group 262 – Special Collection Microfilm (newspaper report of suicide note).

- Where was the river scene filmed?
Milton State Park. It is an island between the borough of Milton and West Milton. We filmed near the southern tip of the island; it was freezing.

- The show’s credits list professional genealogists as part of the crew – what level of involvement did they have?
They did hire local genealogists to perform some of the research in Northumberland and elsewhere. I don’t know if these are the “professionals” listed in their credits.

- What were some of the highlights of the process for you?
The highlight for me was seeing the final product on TV. It is amazing how much editing is done. It took 4 days of shooting with Steve to produce about 10-15 minutes of airtime. Much of what we discussed did not appear on TV.

- How long was the process start to finish?
The whole process took place between the last week of November and January 18. They filmed at the Archives January 12, 13, and 14. The river scene was shot January 18th. 

- Any idea how the particular ancestor/story-line was picked?
Although abandoning one family to start another is an interesting story in and of itself, I believe his suicide attempt is the primary reason they focused on Ralph Montgomery. Since Steve’s grandmother, Ralph’s granddaughter, committed suicide, it provides an emotional link to the past and a possible answer to a tragedy. 

To view the full episode, click here.

Summer Interns and Volunteers

Top (left to right): Wessely Decker, Missy Zelner, Catrina Joos, and Chris Stetler  Bottom: James Shelton, Erika Lawrence
Top (left to right): Wessely Decker, Missy Zelner, Catrina Joos, and Chris Stetler Bottom: James Shelton, Erika Lawrence

The Archives is fortunate to maintain a mutually-beneficial relationship with students and residents throughout the Commonwealth. It is through their dedication and assistance that the Archives is able to persevere in its mission to preserve Pennsylvania's history.

If you are interested in a volunteer or internship opportunity, contact archivist Sharon Nelson at or (717) 787-5953.


Erika Lawrence
Erika Lawrence, a part-time summer intern at the State Archives and the PHMC Staff Library, is a graduate student in the online library science program at Clarion University.  Erika received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration but her interests in history, archival work, preservation, and museums led her to re-examine her career goals and seek experience at the PHMC. In the library, Erika assisted with many aspects involved in serving the research needs of a public history agency, such as the technical preparation of library materials and providing reference assistance. 

Catrina Joos 
Catrina is a graduate student at Bucknell University where she is working towards a Master's degree in English Literature.  She received her B.A. in East Asian Studies from Brown University in 2007.  The bulk of her time this summer was spent  creating webpage item-level finding aids for documents in RG-33.78 (Supreme Court opinions from the 19th century) and RG-33.93 (Supreme Court recognizance papers from the 18th century). 

James Shelton
James is currently a senior at Ursinus College, majoring in History and working towards an Africana Studies minor. He is interested in writing and reading and wishes to establish a career as a published author. James organized the papers of James Wade, a cabinet member under Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp, under the supervision of Archivist Stephen Noel. He has also helped to clean Civil War muster out rolls.

Wesley Decker
Wesley Decker is a graduate student at Shippensburg University working on a Masters degree in Applied History.  He previously attended Penn State University-University Park, where he received a Bachelors degree in both History and Philosophy.  His historical interest is in American History, particularly twentieth century America.  Under the direction of Kurt Bell, Wes worked primarily in VideoBank on the Governor Rendell assets by uploading metadata. 

Mellissa (Missy) Zellner
Missy is a Junior at Lebanon Valley College working towards a degree in History and Historical Communications. She is also earning a minor in Theater. In the fall, she looks forward to studying abroad in England, as her primary historical interest is British history, particularly during the Renaissance. Under the supervision of mentor Brett Reigh, of the Arrangement and Description section, Missy tried out a little bit of everything, including, scanning, editing, and conserving documents as well as generally making sense of chaos. Missy’s principal project this summer was organizing forty two cartons of Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission subject files.


Myretta Anderson 
A native of Kansas, Myretta Anderson came to the State Archives after twenty-five years of employment with AMP Inc. as a supervisor of customer research.  She now enjoys volunteer work, reading history, and genealogical endeavors.  In addition to working at the Archives, she volunteers at the Harrisburg Hospital, the Governor’s Residence, the Historical Society of Dauphin County, the Whitaker Center, Hospice, and at Hershey Park for her church.  Here at the Archives, she currently is rehousing World War II bonus applications in acid-free folders and preparing them for scanning.  She describes herself as “a farm girl with a whole different life.”

Christina (Chris) Stetler
Chris began volunteering at the Pennsylvania State Archives in May. She has an undergraduate degree in Communication, concentrating in Public Relations from Elizabethtown College.  After graduation, she began a career in fundraising with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (Southern New Jersey Chapter, at the Division level), UCP of South Central Pennsylvania, and York College of Pennsylvania.  While at York College, she returned to school and earned a MA in American Studies from Penn State Capital Campus.  She graduated in December 2009.

Chris currently volunteers with Reference Archivist Jonathan Stayer and hopes to gain experience leading to a position in the archival or museum fields. She spends her time at the State Archives researching the 1918 Influenza Epidemic and how it affected the state, helping determine the location for misplaced documents, seeking out George Washington documents to help the University of Virginia with a book project, and paging in the research room. 

Archives Publication Recieves AASLH Merit Award

PHMC Archivist Rich Saylor's book
PHMC Archivist Rich Saylor's book "Soldiers to Governors..." won the 2011 AASLH Merit Award

Selected by its Award Leadership in History Committee, The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) recently declared the publication “Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders”, as its 2011 Award of Merit winner. The competition is billed as the nation’s most prestigious for recognition of achievement in state and local history. 

“Soldiers to Governors...,” authored by Richard C. Saylor, an archivist for the Pennsylvania State Archives and published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), offers a first-ever, in-depth look at PHMC’s extensive Civil War collections. The book presents official records and artifacts directly relating to Pennsylvania governors who had earlier fought in the Civil War: John White Geary (1819–1873), John Frederick Hartranft (1830–1889), Henry Martyn Hoyt (1830–1892), James Addams Beaver (1837–1914) and Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker (1843–1916). The book may be purchased online at



Basic Processing Project Update

Records staged for disposal
Records staged for disposal

As reported in the last edition of Access Archives, The State Archives received a $166,298 Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to provide minimal processing for unprocessed government records among its holdings.

Utilizing the More Product, Less Process mode of minimal processing, Project Archivists have completed series-title naming and numbering unprocessed records. Additionally, twenty-five record groups (RGs) or about one-third of all RGs, have been completed, including series descriptions, location confirmation, and descriptions uploaded to the website. These records comprise over 2,930 cubic feet and include 500 series descriptions. Nearly 3,500 cubic feet of records have been examined since the grant’s inception, September 20, 2010.  Of those, 423.8 cubic feet have been deaccessioned upon reappraisal and subsequent panel review. 

Critical reexamination of these records after decades in the tower has been valuable as many mislabeled shelf locations and issues with misfiled items have now been corrected.

Civil War Muster Roll Conservation

Preparing Muster Rolls for transportation to CCHA
Preparing Muster Rolls for transportation to CCHA

The Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls Project came to a temporary halt in June 2009 due to lack of funds. The three-year project, begun in October 2005, was to conserve 2,500 mustering-out rolls. Due to the severe condition of numerous rolls, as well as an anticipated third year of funding which was eliminated, only two-thirds of the total were conserved.

Since that time, PHMC has been fortunate to receive private sector support including:
-Franklin County Convention and Visitors Bureau
-Stephen and Patricia Noel (6th UST Company C Muster Out Roll, In honor of Thomas R. Hawkins, Congressional Medal of Honor Winner)
-Joan E. Bretz (In memory of Benjamin P. Bretz, who served in the 127th Infantry, PA Volunteers, and PA 13th Cavalry)
-Sheila Jones
-Susan Latin
-Rhonda Newton and Steve Anderson
-Vynetta A. Morrow
-Frank A. Marshall
-Annette and Lawrence Keener-Farley/Victorian Dance Ensemble (87th PVI)
-The Shippensburg Historical Society

Now through an appropriation of $300,000 allotted from the General Assembly’s Keystone Preservation Fund, the project will come to a conclusion with the conservation of the last 800 rolls. Project Director Linda Ries states that the remaining rolls have been delivered for treatment at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia.  CCAHA expects to have them completed by July 1, 2012. At that juncture, they will be scanned by and ultimately placed on the Web.  

The Civil War Muster Rolls are the official records of the approximately 362,000 Pennsylvania soldiers who served in the American Civil War. Their extensive use over the past 150 years lead to considerable damage.

Archives Without Tears Call for Hosts

Clockwise from top left: Josh Stahlman at Penn State Harrisburg, Jerry Ellis at Beaver County Historical Research and Landmark Foundation, presnters at Bradford County Historical Society, and Linda Ries at Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Clockwise from top left: Josh Stahlman at Penn State Harrisburg, Jerry Ellis at Beaver County Historical Research and Landmark Foundation, presnters at Bradford County Historical Society, and Linda Ries at Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Archives Without Tears is gearing up for 2012 and is seeking host institutions state-wide.

The Archives Without Tears workshops offered by the State Archives continue to elicit audiences state-wide. Since the program’s inception in 2009, 355 individuals from over 233 organizations have attended the training. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  One ringing endorsement proclaimed: “This was worth every penny and very much on par with a college course without all the cost.”

The workshop provides information and reference material for organizations to take control of their historical records and preserve them as well as make researchers aware of them. All are welcome and participation is encouraged across organizational and boundary lines – a fantastic opportunity to welcome likeminded peers to your organization/facility, foster new relationships, and open dialogue community-wide.

The workshop lasts two days. The first is spent covering basic archival procedures and principles, beginning with appraisal and accessioning, continuing through processing and on to institutional promotion/community outreach. The second day commences with disaster preparedness and recovery for records and is followed by an explanation of essential records and their protection. Emergency responses to situations commonly affecting collections will be stressed. In the afternoon, there is a module on special-media and photograph preservation.  
For more information about hosting an Archives Without Tears workshop in 2012, please contact Josh Stahlman at, or 717-772-3257. If your organization can provide a venue, audience, lunches, and morning coffee, the State Archives will provide instructors, materials, training, and assist with publicity and arrangements. 

Search Room Renovations Complete

Top: The new microfilm reading area and original record areas  Bottom: guests at the Archives' open house
Top: The new microfilm reading area and original record areas Bottom: guests at the Archives' open house

After months of renovation, the Archives’ Microfilm Reading Area and Search Room re-opened on February 16 with record attendance. Improvements include an open layout; computer terminals for patron use, with access to;and new PC-based digital microfilm reader printers.

 An open house held on May 23, 2011 was also well attended, with over 120 people. Visitors were able to peruse a selection of original documents, as well as take a behind-the-scenes look at the records storage areas in the Archives tower.

Itinerent Archivist Update

An anonymous image, illustrating the fate of many records before Heather's intervention
An anonymous image, illustrating the fate of many records before Heather's intervention

The Itinerant Archivist program provides records management assistance for up to two months in county offices. When last heard from, Itinerant Archivist Heather Heckman was beginning work in Luzerne County. One request in Luzerne was that Heather work with the County Engineer to develop an accurate set of requirements for a centralized inactive records storage facility. The county had determined that the existing situation did not adequately meet their needs. She also met with forty three offices and departments to discuss records retention and disposition. The Wilkes-Barre Records Improvement Team is making great progress improving their Records Management Program.

Heather’s next assignment was in Northumberland County where she was called to work with offices and departments requesting more detailed information on the use of the retention manual and other records management techniques. Further, Heather visited facilities where records were or could be stored and made recommendations for more efficient use.

At present, Heather is in Lock Haven working with the offices of Clinton County. In addition to her normal pattern of advising on the use of the retention manual, she is working with county employees as they develop operating procedures for a newly constructed records facility.

Now in the third year of this program, Heather’s attention to detail, professionalism, and personal interest continues to impress recipient counties, which are most appreciative of her time.

Inter Governmental Preparedness for Essential Records

Handout 2.2 from the REPR course, shown above, identifies salvage priorities, one of the fundamental concepts when working with Essential Records
Handout 2.2 from the REPR course, shown above, identifies salvage priorities, one of the fundamental concepts when working with Essential Records


The last edition of Access Archives described a new initiative for providing recovery training and information to all levels of government employees. The Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records (IPER) course, developed by the Council of State Archivists, utilizes a webinar format to reach even those with no travel budget. The courses provide the most current guidance for identifying and protecting essential records as well as record-specific disaster recovery techniques and planning. After completing course-specific training, Josh Stahlman and Jerry Ellis contacted the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors to solicit an audience and distribute a course schedule. Over 100 local government employees state-wide have completed the training in five course offerings. Additionally, attendees have participated from as far away as Alaska.

The timeliness of the method and topics was demonstrated when a water emergency in Harrisburg forced the closing of downtown offices. Needing only a computer and telephone, the webinar went on without a hitch. As the daily news has reported recent emergency after emergency, preparing for and responding to disasters has never been more urgent and the IPER courses provide the necessary tools. Prior to one session this spring, the trainers implemented many of the IPER response and recovery principles when called upon to assist a neighboring bureau, where a leak wet several cartons of reference materials. The IPER courses stress the protection of records – the lifeblood of all government agencies.

The Archives will be offering a condensed, in-person version of this training to state employees on October 25th in the Keystone Building, Harrisburg. Visit the Archives Seminar page here  or contact Josh Stahlman at 717-772-3257 or for more information.

Tales from the Tower

Almost thirty cartons of records from Michaux State Forest, many dating back to the beginning of the state forest system, have recently found a home in the Archives tower. How rangers accomplished so much with so little is part of the story these files tell. Early supervisors’ circular letters and guidance documents show the development of the forestry profession and variety of concerns which faced them. Letters to and from individuals critical to Pennsylvania forest history are present, including Mira Lloyd Dock, Joseph Illick, and others.

 Forestry procedures have undergone considerable refinement over the past century, and these records offer insight into how they were implemented. Since many homesteads were within the forest or on its boundaries, much of the correspondence also concerns lumber types, plantings, and land transactions.

Charter Day Recap

With William Penn himself (William Kashatus) on hand for Charter Day, Heritage Week 2011 drew over 1,141 visitors to the Archives’ display of the original 1681 Charter from King Charles II of England to William Penn. We look forward to the Charter’s next emergence on Charter Day 2012, which will be Sunday, March 11.

Image description:

Left: William Penn (William Kashatus) dsicusses the Charter with guests

Center (top to bottom): Archivist Aaron McWilliams elaborates on research at the Archives; Guests interacting with Barbara Barksdale from the Midland Cemetery Association; Daniel Devlin, Pennsylvania State Forester and director of the Bureau of Forestry, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), presented “Sustaining Penn’s Woods: Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future” on the history of the Commonwealth’s forests, present-day management challenges facing our forests, and how citizens can become involved and be a part of a sustainable future; Winners from National History Day 2010, who had exhibits on display

Right: Pennsylvania Jack telling centuries-old stories with lively characters from the Keystone State; the Victorian Dance Ensemble interacting with the audience

2011 Charter Day participants included:

-Capital Area Genealogical Society

-Franklin County Historical Society

-Friends of Midland Cemetery

-Halifax Area Historical Society

-N. York County Historical and Preservation Society

-Northumberland County Historical Society

-Pennsylvania Heritage Society®

-Pennsylvania Coal Heritage Project

-Pennsylvania State Archives

-Society of Mayflower Descendants

-Susquehanna Trails Genealogical Club

-State Library of Pennsylvania

-Afrolumens Project

-York County Heritage Trust

Save the Date

Ongoing: The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia, continues offering lectures, workshops, and seminars for professionals and the general public. To view the calendar:

October 13 – 15: Pennsylvania Historical Association annual meeting, University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

October 20 – 22: The Fall 2011 MARAC meeting will be held in Bethlehem, PA at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem. For more information:

October 25: The Pennsylvania State Archives 2011 Annual Archives Seminar: Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records will be held for state employees at the Keystone Building in Harrisburg, for more information or to register, visit the Pennsylvania State Archives Annual Archives Seminar webpage.

Look to the Winter 2011 edition of Access Archives for next year’s Archives Without Tears schedule. If your organization is interested in hosting an AWOT workshop, contact Josh Stahlman at:, or 717-772-3257.

Recent Acquistions

Record Groups

-Office of the Governor, 2003-2010 (selected series)
-Appointments and Nominations, 7 cu.ft. (Series 10.157)
-Autopen Correspondence, 8 cu.ft. (Series 10.159)
-Children's Correspondence, 6 cu.ft. (Series 10.185)
-Constituent Correspondence: Agency Responses, 42 cu.ft. (Series 10.190)
-Correspondence - Pennsylvania House and Senate, 4.5 cu. ft. (Series 10.161)
-Correspondence-VIP (Elected Leaders and Other Public Officials), 7.0 cu. ft. (Series 10.162)
-Election Congratulations and Transition Correspondence, 1 cu.ft. (Series 10.182)
-General Counsel Files, 6 cu.ft.  Series 10.164)
-Governor's Issue Files, 6 cu.ft.  (Series 10.167)
-Greetings from the Governor, 30 cu.ft. (Series 10.185)
-Inmate Correspondence, 10 cu.ft. (Series 10.170)
-Judge Marjorie O. Rendell's Files, 5 cu.ft. (Series 10.184)
-Logs of Constituent Calls by Issue 4.5 cu.ft. (Series 10.158)
-Miscellaneous and Atypical Correspondence, 9 cu.ft. (Series 10.186)
-Office of Policy and Planning Files – General 4 cu.ft. (Series 10.172)
-Policy Files of Deputy Chiefs of Staff, 3 cu.ft. (Series 10.193)
-Proclamations, 5 cu.ft., (Series 10.177)
-Scheduling Files, 54 cu.ft. (Series 10.173)

Manuscript Groups

-Diaries and Journals Collection (MG-6): Two Civil War Diaries of John A. Magee, corporal, Company E, 100th PVI, ca. 1861-1864, written in pencil, and a transcribed version of the above diaries, written in a period style diary, in ink, ca. 1861-1863.

-Special Court Judges Association of Pennsylvania (MG-522): Newsletter of the SCJA, The Journal, 1980-1995, 1.5 cu.ft.

-Pennsylvania State Grange Records (MG-493): Potter County West Branch Grange #1149; Potter County West Pike Grange #1681; Lawrence County North Beaver Grange #1646; Huntingdon County Shavers Creek Grange #353; Clearfield County Hickory Grange #1285, 1.25 cu.ft. (accretion)

-Daniel and Mary Crouch Collection (MG-520): Collection of letters with original envelopes, and other correspondence mainly written by or about Private Daniel Crouch, Company D, 82 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry to his wife Mary A. Crouch of Albion, PA.  Includes additonal family correspondence, both pre-war and post-war, to his wife Mary A. Crouch, who sought a widow's pension after Daniel went missing at the Battle of Cold Harbor, VA. (.5 cu.ft).

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